Identity Statement for Françoise Henry

  • Reference code: IE UCDA P182
  • Title: Papers of Françoise Henry (d.1982)
  • Dates: 1928–80
  • Level of description: Fonds
  • Extent: 8 boxes
  • Context
  • Content and Structure
  • Conditions of Access and Use
  • Allied Material

Biographical History

Born in Paris, Françoise Henry studied at the École du Louvre under the great celticist, Henri Hubert. Her first major publication Les Tumulus du Départment de la Côte-d’Or was a comprehensive study of Iron Age burials. She studied Carolingian and medieval art with Emile Mâle and Henri Focillon and it was her interest in medieval art that led her to Ireland and University College Dublin. During a visit to Ireland in the late 1920s she saw the Ahenny Crosses in County Tipperary which perhaps more than anything else attracted her to the study of Irish art. In 1928 she published her first article on Irish art, ‘La chapelle de Cormac à Cashel’.

Her career began in UCD as an exchange lecturer in the Department of French in 1934. By the 1940s she was lecturing in Archaeology and European Art, working on a study of Irish antiquities and accumulating a large collection of illustrations of Irish art, mainly in the form of photographic negatives and prints. Some years later Dr Henri became Director of Studies in Archaeology and the History of European Painting. The nucleus of what is now the History of Art Department in University College Dublin is to be found in the Purser-Griffith lecture series on European painting which she began in 1934.

She carried out a considerable amount of excavation work at Glendalough, at Iniskea off the Mayo coast, and elsewhere; but she is primarily renowned as a scholar of early Irish art. Her first important publication on the subject was La sculpture irlandaise in 1934. In 1940 she published a major work entitled Irish Art, a study combining manuscripts, sculpture and metalwork in brilliant synthesis. The culmination of her publishing career was the three volume work in French and English which appeared between 1963 and 1970—L’Art irlandais, Irish art in the early Christian period, during the Viking invasions, and in the Romanesque period.

Dr Henri retired from UCD in 1974, the year in which the Book of Kells appeared, reproductions from the manuscript for which she wrote the text. Her final years were spent at her home at Lindry in France where she died in 1982.

Archival history

This collection was transferred from the UCD School of Archaeology which retains a collection of c.20,000 negatives and prints.

Scope and Content

Textual and visual material consisting mainly of notes, drawings and plans, documenting early Christian Irish art, its inspiration and the extent of its influence in Europe, in areas including architecture, sculpture, manuscripts, metalwork, ivory and textiles.

  • Access: Available online at the UCD Digital Library.
  • Language: English and French.
  • Finding aid: Descriptive catalogue

Additional Francoise Henry papers can be found in the Royal Irish Academy and in the UCD School of Art History and Cultural Policy.

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